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31 Weeks to a Better Grocery Budget Video Series: How to Implement the Buy Ahead Principle

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  • Natalie says:

    Isn’t it past your bedtime? 😉

  • Meredith says:

    this topic always makes me laugh – when I first started out I was so excited that I didn’t stop to think WHY an item was on clearance… sometimes, it’s because its expiration date is coming up and the store is looking to unload it. That would be my one word of advice to those just starting out with stockpiling – check the dates on the products you’re buying (even if it’s not clearance, but maybe just a shelf stable item like pasta sauce, that you’ll get 12 of on a good deal) and make sure that you’ll be able to use them up by the latest date you can find on the shelf. 😀

  • Thanks, Crystal! We’ve started using a separate envelope for “bulk food”, so I use that to pay for our co-op and other bulk food purchases. That has helped keep it separate from our weekly grocery spending. It really does help to have a separate category so I’ve got that money available when I see a good deal or need to stock up!

  • As a newbie to the buy-ahead principle, I’m really looking forward to next week!

  • Mary S. says:

    I am so excited for the storage/organization post next week. I am starting to get into spring cleaning and was thinking of tackling the kitchen soon. I am getting by on my current method but I would love to hear some other storage ideas.

  • Lana says:

    I do ‘buy’ items that are money makers that we would not eat however I have a basket by my backdoor that I put those items in and anyone who comes to my house knows those items are free for the taking. Friends and family are always so thrilled to take those items home and it is fun to give them.

  • Sandra Lee says:

    Great minds! I have always allowed myself to buy an item each week which I refer to as my “Bonus” item, and I allow $2.50. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but you’d be amazed at what $2.50 will get you. It helps me to stock my pantry on items I have wanted to try, that don’t really go on sale often or have lower value q’s when they are available. I purchase an item I want and if the item is on sale, great! If not, I don’t feel guilty about it, I consider it a “Bonus”. If I don’t spend all $2.50 one week, I add the remaining money for next week. For example, I may feel like buying a new marinade for $1.89> I may not have a coupon, it may not be on sale, but my $2.50 covers it. The remaining $.61 is added to my next week’s $2.50. I can then splurge on say a bag of King Arthur flour for $3.49. While I can get a bag of Gold Medal flour for $1.99 I feel like I am spoiling myself a little when I buy the King Arthur. Baking is not only a way I provide my family with better meals, it’s a hobby of mine as well. I have purchased my Pyrex loaf pans at my grocer with this method! And, it’s fun around holidays to be able to buy a little something special to celebrate too, all guilt free!

    By the way, for those of your readers who are leary of buying a store brand, I learned fromWalgreen’s Corporate Office that Walgreen’s brand diapers are made by Kimberly Clark, the same maker of HUGGIES.

  • Ashley says:

    Haha, I couldn’t help notice that your “stocking up” sounds a lot like “stalking” up. Gotta love midwestern accents!

  • Sakura says:

    I have a question, is there a title on the video as to what the topic is each week? I like to check out the videos again at times, but I can’t seem to find the title or topic of the week. Thanks.

  • Chris J. says:

    Overstocking is definitely my problem. I tend to get a little carried away when I find a deal that is WAY lower than I would normally pay. I had never thought about doing a “pantry challenge” until you posted about it last year. Ever since then, I try to do that with my freezer and my pantry every few months. It has helped a lot. As a side note, I think my neighbor loves how well stocked I am. Every few days one of her kids comes over for “1/2 cup sugar” or “2 eggs” or any number of miscellaneous items she always seems to run out of! 🙂

    • Casey says:

      What is the “pantry challenge.” Overstocking is currently my problem too. Never thought it would be, but it is! I think I need to take a week (or couple weeks) off from all my couponing so we can eat up what we’ve got. Like Crystal said, it’s not saving money if we aren’t going to be able to use it all. I absolutely HATE throwing out food that just didn’t get eatten in time. It’s just so hard to say no when it’s such an amazing deal. But I have to remind myself that amazing deals will come around again. Maybe not on this product, but on something else.

      • Chris J. says:

        The pantry challenge is basically just you said, where you swear off any type of grocery shopping for a set period of time except for things like fresh produce and dairy. I seem to remember when Crystal as well as some other bloggers posted it last year they were doing it for 1 month, and they do this once or maybe twice a year. It forces you to get creative in making menu plans by only trying to use what you already have. Even though it was called a “pantry” challenge, several people, including me considered it a “freezer” challenge as well. I found it helpful to dig through my cabinets and freezer with a notebook and make a list of everything I wanted to use up. Then I sat down with the list and created menus from it. I find it a bit easier to do a 1 week long pantry challenge every few months rather than wait longer to do a longer challenge. I try to time it during a week when I don’t see many motivating sales anyway. That way I don’t feel like I’m missing out on a great deal! 🙂 If you type in “pantry challenge” on Crystal’s search bar you can probably find the old post. She really explains it much better than I do.

  • angela says:

    I hate to have a negative comment, but it’s just not loud enough. I can turn it all the way up trying to hear you and all full volume, it’s still not rocking the speakers!

    • Crystal says:

      Make sure it’s turned up on YouTube. If that doesn’t work, people have suggested using speakers. I am using very rudimentary video equipment (my phone for most of these), so I’m guessing that’s much of the issue.

    • Jen says:

      Make sure it’s turned up on the video clip (YouTube) itself. I thought the same thing until I turned it up on the clip itself. HTH

      • Stephanie says:

        Crystal weren’t you using the Flip camera? I am just wondering, I thought for sure that is what you said before!

        • Crystal says:

          Recently, I’ve been using my phone because it’s easier since I’ve still not gotten the hang of the Flip. Hopefully this summer when I have some extra time, I’ll be able to become more proficient at the Flip.

  • Heather says:

    Thanks Crystal! I have been enjoying this series. BTW – The sound is fine on my computer.

  • marie says:

    Thanks for the tips. I find it hard to have a catagory for “buying ahead”. We don’t have a breakdown of groceries per week. We have $200 for the month for a family of 4 plus a newborn. And like yesterday I spent the rest of our month’s money buying bread at Aldi’s because we were out and needed some. When I went to the store the bread was price cut from $1.89 to .79cents. I HAD to get some.
    So I like the ideas shared on having some money for that, just not sure how to work it into our budget.
    As for health and beauty items it’s great to stock up and then not have that expense in the budget monthly.
    Thanks for all you do.

  • Charity says:

    This information is wonderful and I practice this method, but lately I feel very discouraged. I have been stocking up on essentials and making double recipes (one meal to eat, one meal to freeze) to help us be stocked/prepared when our fourth little blessing arrives. I am due in a couple weeks and for the past week or so have felt so worn out that we’ve been eating up the frozen meals I had prepraed for after the birth and running the stockpile down because I feel so tired that I haven’t been grocery shopping as aften and getting those great deals that I was. Our finances are tight, so there will be no room for extra eating out/pick up, and we have recently moved across the state and have yet to find a church, so nobody is going to be bringing us meals when the baby arrives either and we have have no relatives that are what you would call “supportive”. We haven’t heard “congratulations” this pregnancy, much less been given a baby shower or gifts or anything of the sort (last pregnancy was similar). Honestly, I’m not trying to complain, I just feel lonely and well, small, if that makes any sense. I’ve been trying to be a good steward of our resources and trying to prepare meals for after the birth, but now that we are using those to keep from eating out I feel discouraged because I don’t have the energy to build up the supply I had prepared in the freezer. I feel like I have let my family down. I’m sure there is a lesson that God has to show me through this, so I will keep looking to Him for strength and keep doing my best to care for my family, even if I feel like I’m failing terribly.

    • Kim says:

      Charity, it really is ok. I have 4 and it was hard in my last trimester! At least you had the stuff for using now when you are wiped out! Hopefully you will get that burst of energy closer to your due date! We moved 4 weeks before my last one was born. It is hard but you and your family will pull through. I would bring you dinner every other day if I lived close! Know that I will pray for you.

      • Charity says:

        Thank you for your kind words and most of all for your prayers. I actually had a check up today at my OBGYN and found out that I my hemoglobin levels are really, really low and that my thyroid level (I have hypothyroidism) is once again out of wack. Knowing this makes me feel a little better about being so worn out! Hoping I’ll hit that burst of energy/nesting phase soon. 😉

    • Crystal says:

      {Hugs! Charity!} It sounds like it’d be very discouraging. 🙁

      Can you email me? I want to send you something to help out a little, since I can’t bring you a real home-cooked meal.

    • Emily says:

      I wish I could bring you a home-cooked meal. Those meals from both my husband’s and my church families (we go to different churches) after the birth of our 2 kids were awesome. I don’t know how I would have gotten through it without them. You don’t by any chance live near Columbus, OH, do you???

      • Laura says:

        I am still appreciate of the meals we received when our children were born and try to pass the blessing on to others, even all these years later!

      • Charity says:

        Aww, you’re so kind, but living in the Low Country of SC, I’m not quite in your neck of the woods.

    • Casey says:

      What state do you live in? Wish there was a way I could help! I’d mail you some of my freezer meals, but guessing they wouldn’t be too good by the time they got there. 🙁 You may feel lonely right now, but you aren’t alone. I love this blog and the people who visit and comment. I don’t know any of these people, but everyone seems so kind and helpful to one another. I’ve learned so much. Wish there was a way I could give back.

      • Charity says:

        We moved a few months ago to the Low Country of SC. We are praying to find a church soon, but for now my “friends” and “encouragement” come via the internet from blogs such as this, because like you said everyone is always so kind and helpful to one another…it really feels like a community. Thank you for your kind words.

  • Niki C says:

    Hey Charity,
    It sucks that you are so tired! I feel your pain, especially after a long move. Something that helped me last time I had a baby was to have plenty of foods that didn’t need much preparation. Pasta with sauce, hard boiled eggs, chunks of cheese, and lots of fruit. The last three at least give you something to hand the kids without much work. I hope you will have a burst of “nesting” energy right before the baby comes!

    • Rachael says:

      I only have two kids, but I found with the second one, I had a lot less time to prepare freezer meals before she came. Instead, I stocked up on quick prep meals and premade freezer meals, which often do come on sale. We also ate a ton of sandwiches, which we a godsend since I was spending so much time nursing. I could just eat while I was sitting with the baby. Salads are another great option. I sometimes buy Rosterie chicken, shred it, and freeze it. Then just add some preshredded cheese and some chopped veggies and dinner is made in about five minutes. I also had meals on hand that my husband could easily prepare, even though I generally do most of the cooking. Hugs to you and take care of yourself 🙂

    • Charity says:

      Thank you! After finding out today at my check up that my hemoglobin levels are very low and that my thyroid is once again out of wack, I have high hopes that the meds will help my energy return!

  • Emily says:

    How true…..Buy only what you know you’ll truly use, says the woman who stocked up on 12 bags of Goldfish for her kids this week because they were B1G1 at Meijer and I had coupons for $1/2. Only now, I’m sitting on the couch eating almost a whole bag. Yes, I’m using them…..but should I be??? I probably could have used a little more control over that purchase.

    • Chris J. says:

      Oh my gosh, your post is giving me a good chuckle for today! I’m so glad to read your honesty. It makes me feel a little better about some of my ‘not so wise’ stock up decisions on snacks “for the kids”. 🙂

  • Michelle V says:

    Hi, I’ve been reading your articles and watching your videos for a couple months now and you post many helpful things. But I’ve been having a little trouble getting my grocery bill down. I live in an urban area in New Jersey and everything seems to be very overpriced here. I remember a year or two ago visiting Ohio, I was astonished at how much cheaper everything seemed to be (Main example being milk, which was about $1.75 there but usually around $4.99 here!). I’ve been working with sales and making use of every coupon that I can, but I can’t seem to save much overall. The stores I shop at don’t double/triple any coupons, and I never seem to find really good sales. If it helps at all, the two main stores I shop at are Pathmark & Shoprite. Do you have any tips for this sort of situation?

    Keep up the good work, and thank you in advance for reading.

    • Crystal says:

      I’d say keep at it for a few more months and don’t give up! It takes time and patience to learn what works for you and your area. A couple of suggestions:

      1) Do you have drug stores (Walgreens, CVS or Rite Aid)? If so, definitely try your hand at playing the Drugstore Game so you can get most of your household products for free or almost-free. Find more details on getting started here:

      2) Have you been following the grocery store match-ups for Pathmark and Shoprite? That will help you know what the best deals are on stores in your area. I’d also see if there are dollar stores, $0.99 stores or other stores which you might be able to shop at on occasion for great deals on items you usually buy. See a list of some ideas to look into here:

    • Rebecca says:

      Hi Michelle V,

      I have relatives in NJ and I know what you’re saying about prices! This may or may not be a practical idea (especially given gas prices lately), but have you considered traveling about 1 or 1.5 hours away to do a “stocking up” shopping trip every few months? Perhaps you could find better prices in a more rural area of PA or NJ. If you have a chest cooler, or borrowed extra coolers from friends, the stock up trips could include as much as you could fit in of refrigerated products.

      After growing up in NJ and now living in a much more rural area (comparatively), my husband often comments on the different perspective he has now about commuting. Where we live now we don’t blink an eye at commuting a much longer mileage for work or shopping than he commuted in NJ. If it can make a big enough difference in your overall grocery bill, it might be worth the time.

      • Rachael says:

        I live in a rural area where the local prices are also really high. If I do a once a month stock up by driving an hour, I generally save come out way ahead by driving.

  • Carrie P #2 says:

    I can’t get the video to play. I then went to youtube directly and can’t get anything to play at all. I hope it has something to do with youtube and not my computer! Anyone else having this trouble?

  • Casey says:

    TOTALLY looking forward to next week. My storage shelves are a mess! I can’t remember what I have. I have to dig through the freezer thinking “didn’t I have one more bag of _____?!” Help! 🙂 Don’t want food to go to waste and expire because it got lost in the mix.

  • Janna says:

    I love you video series! Thanks for sharing the information.

    One idea that might help you improve your vlogs:

    Your camera should have a setting somewhere in the menu for “color temperature/balance” or “white balance.” That should help with the color distortion – this one looks a bit yellow. It’s amazing what color correction can do to improve video quality. Just make sure it’s not on AWB (auto white balance), as it’s often inaccurate. Change it to the incandescent or fluorescent setting, depending on the lighting in your home. Hope this helps!

    • Crystal says:

      Yes, the lighting is really bad and we’ve been discussing what we could do to improve it. Unfortunately, our camera is my phone and it has zero settings or options other than point and shoot (as far as I know). We’re hoping to eventually upgrade to a camera with settings, but for now we’re just working with what we have!

      • Janna says:

        What kind of phone do you have? You’d be surprised what functions phone cameras have these days! I have a phone that is 3 years old and it has a white balance setting, and all the newer ones I’ve used do have the function. A lot of times people just don’t know how to use the functions or know what the settings do. I’d look into it! Check the menu/settings when you have the camera function on.

        • Crystal says:

          Hmm, maybe I need to search a little more. As far as I looked, I couldn’t find any sort of settings, just a point and shoot. Of course, I have very limited tech skills, so I might just be overlooking it!

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